CD: Hope For Harmony
Artist: Kathyrn Toyama

Kathryn Toyama CD“Musical improvisation,” as defined in Wikipedia, “is the creative activity of immediate (‘in the moment’) musical composition, which combines performance with communication of emotions and instrumental technique. Thus, musical ideas in improvisation are spontaneous.” One such practitioner of this particular school of artistic creation is Kathryn Toyama. Although she is a classically trained pianist, for her: “the feeling is foremost and when it comes to me, I find that I must first open my heart, and then the music begins to flow.” In fact, most of the songs on her Hope For Harmony CD were created in this manner and purely for her own emotional catharsis without the intention of making a commercial recording. Interestingly, in spite of having musical training earlier in life and being influenced by Chopin, Debussy, and Beethoven, due to a number of traumatic life circumstances, there was an almost 30 year period where Kathryn retreated from playing the piano or even listening to piano music.


There is an interesting dichotomy in the music world between those who formally compose music and those who improvise. Add to that Kathryn Toyamathe developments in technology, which allow almost infinite modifications to a piece of recorded music in the studio. As Kathryn sees it: “In today’s digital era, recording artists have the liberty to edit and enhance their compositions with creative tapestries, and there is definitely a place for that. But it was important to me with this album to offer the bare truth of my emotional expression.” She goes on to say: “I felt that the truth of my solo performance could only be captured by recording it ‘in the moment’ while preserving the original expression from start to end, just as a live performance would be recorded without any changes. I also believe that the freedom of improvising and allowing the music to develop intuitively rather than through conscious design, allows a channel to open which connects to God, the universe, or the spirit world, and flows through the artist’s soul, energetically translating into a musical imprint.” This connection between music and spirituality is the cornerstone of Kathryn’s creativity and she firmly believes in the power of consciously created positive music to effect change, both personally and globally.


One of the avenues Kathryn puts her beliefs into practical expression is through her work as a spokesperson for a non-profit organization called Healing with Harmony. Their mission is to  provide custom configured healing music programs to health care providers for their patients at no cost. They do this by making available what they call a Harmony Kit which includes a collection of specifically chosen music and spoken word CD’s, players, and accessories. In her words: “Discovering this incredible foundation was a beautiful dream that materialized into reality, and it has been one of life’s most fulfilling experiences for me to contribute to their cause and create an awareness for what they do.” Kathryn’s own Hope For Harmony CD, is among the many albums the organization distributes free of charge to provide relaxation and comfort to those undergoing difficult medical situations.


Kathryrn ToyamaOne of the things I enjoyed about listening to Hope For Harmony is that among the eighteen songs, were a number of shorter vignette-like pieces. Each one reflecting its own emotional color, bringing to mind a necklace with a variety of colorful gems all strung together by Kathryn’s creativity and focused intention. Right from the beginning, I appreciated the contrast between the opening track, “Hope,” with its heartfelt yearning, and the next piece entitled “Carefree,” that had a light, airy, dancing in the wind feel to it. Kathryn’s spirituality and belief in the healing power of music is evident in song titles like “Open Your Heart,” “Another Chance,” “Finding The Way,” “Slowly Healing,” and Prayer For Peace.” While there is musical diversity in her songs, the omnipresent ambience is one of serenity, gentleness, and comfort. Hearing her music, I got the impression of an artist who has transcended difficult life circumstances and is able to channel that experience into uplifting others – a musical alchemist who has found a way to transmute emotional lead into gold.


Although Kathryn’s music could be described in terms of technique, structure, melody, etc. for me it was more about the feelings it evoked. A good example is on one of the shorter pieces entitled “The Light.” While it is less than two minutes in length, in that short span of time it managed to convey a sense of quiet majesty that had a cinematic quality, one which was also shared with another track entitled “Floating On Dreams.” On “Acceptance,” a rolling arpeggio created a foundation for cascades of tinkling notes to dance upon. As could be expected from it’s title, “The Parting,” while elegant in its presence, is tinged with a trace of sorrow.


YingYangBeing primarily a solo piano album, the final track brings a surprise in the form of guitar accompaniment by Richard Alan. The pair played beautifully together, with the guitar perfectly complimenting the graceful piano melodies. Kathryn’s CD Baby page recommends Hope For Harmony to fans of George Winston, and I would agree that her music could appeal to listeners of that genre with its blend of new age and neo-classical elements. Kathryn’s music displays a true purity of heart born of her commitment to the potential of harmony to heal. In her words: “I believe that music is a sacred gift because it transcends all boundaries, and I believe that music not only can comfort and heal the mind, body, soul, and spirit, but it can also spiritually influence humankind to evolve beyond the need for violence.” Putting her beliefs into action, a portion of proceeds from the CD is donated to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  In a fitting conclusion to this article Kathryn shares:  “When the intention behind the musical vibrations are emotionally positive, I believe that they can reach the heart and help to improve how we relate to each other.“